Dr Adam Mosley

I read Natural Sciences at Cambridge University as an undergraduate, studying physics, chemistry, biochemistry and pharmacology, before deciding that I preferred libraries and museums to laboratories. After studying for an MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science, I embarked on a PhD in the history of early modern astronomy. I was Jane Eliza Proctor Fellow at Princeton University, 1999-2000, and a Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, 2000-2004, with an affiliation to the Cambridge University Department of History and Philosophy of Science. I have retained that affiliation since arriving in Swansea in January 2004.

I served on the Council of the British Society for the History of Science between 2006 and 2009, and was Reviews Editor for British Journal for the History of Science from mid-2010 until mid-2015.

I was a Visiting Fellow at CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities) and Wolfson College, of the University of Cambridge, in Michaelmas Term 2007. During the academic year 2015-2016, I shall be a Dibner Research Fellow in the History of Science & Technology at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Areas of Expertise

  • early modern astronomy
  • early modern science
  • cosmography
  • book history
  • history of museums
  • material culture of the sciences


  1. & Christoph Rothmann's Discourse on the Comet of 1585: An Edition and Translation with Accompanying Essays. Leiden: Brill.
  2. & 'Astronomy and Astrology'. In Philip Ford (†), Jan Bloemendal and Charles Fantazzi (Ed.), Brill's Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World. (pp. 667-677). Leiden: Brill.
  3. 'Past Portents Predict: Cometary Historiae and Catalogues in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries'. In Dario Tessicini and Patrick J. Boner (Ed.), Celestial Novelties on the Eve of the Scientific Revolution 1540-1630. (pp. 1-32). Florence: Leo S. Olschki.
  4. 'Reading the Heavens: Observation and Interpretation of Astronomical Phenomena in Learned Letters c. 1600'. In van Miert, Dirk (Ed.), Communicating Observations in Early Modern Letters (1500-1675): Epistolography and Epistemology in the Age of Scientific Revolution. (pp. 115-134). London: The Warburg Institute.
  5. 'Vincenzo Maria Coronelli's Atlante Veneto and the diagrammatic tradition of cosmography'. Journal for the History of Astronomy 42, 27-53.

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  • HI-M01 Historical Methods and Approaches

    This module provides training in advanced historical research. It is designed to introduce students to methods of historical investigation, writing, and presentation, and to important historical resources (including archives, collections of sources, and museums). Attention will be given to the use of IT in historical work work as well as more traditional paper-based methods.

  • HI-M38 New Departures in the Writing of History

    This module provides an introduction to advanced historiography. It is designed to develop students¿ awareness of traditional historiographical concerns alongside their knowledge current trends and new directions in writing and thinking about the past.

  • HI-M39 Research Folder

    This module is designed to help students to identify a dissertation topic appropriate to their interests and expertise, and to tackle the problems of methodology, develop the research techniques, and undertake the project planning which are the necessary preliminaries to researching and writing a 20,000 word dissertation.

  • HI-M53 From Princely Possessions to Public Museums: A History of Collecting and Display

    The public museums, libraries and galleries of the modern era first emerged from the princely and scholarly collections of the early modern period. Students taking this module will look at the various motivations for collecting from the late middle ages onwards, examine the different types of collection that resulted, and consider how those collections that have survived became accessible to the public. Particular emphasis will be placed on the role of display in the culture of collecting. Throughout their history collections have been displayed, but the reasons for doing so, and the size and nature of the audience to whom they have been shown, have varied over time and according to setting. The module will therefore provide an opportunity to consider what lessons and values have been and are being conveyed by collections, from princely Kunstkammern of the sixteenth century to national and local museums of the twenty-first century.

  • HIH118 Early Modern World, 1500-1800

    In 1500, European exploration and colonisation of the rest of the world was only in its infancy. America, two continents North and South, had been unknown to Europeans until just eight years previously. Most of it was still unmapped by Europeans, as were large parts of the rest of the world. By 1800, on the other hand, it was possible to construct a recognisable modern version of a world map. Europeans had explored, colonised, and resettled huge swathes of America in the first instances. They had killed or displaced millions of Native Americans in the process, wiping out whole civilisations, and they had enslaved 12 million or more Africans in that same process, inflicting immense damage on African societies. Europeans were in the early stages of colonising large parts of Africa and Asia too by 1800. And yet, advances in science had transformed human understanding of the universe, of the world, and indeed of ourselves. This was connected through the Renaissance in art, culture, and politics as well as science, to enormous changes in the structure of polities and societies. The early modern era perhaps saw the invention not only of modern empires, but of large, centralised modern states. Also, the Renaissance and then Enlightenment changed the way people and states interacted. Arguably, the early modern period represents the transition period between an era of medieval hierarchy and the origins of modern social and political democracy. Essentially, the aim of the module, through your lectures, seminars, and independent reading and thinking, is to give you a sense of the connections between these places and their histories, highlighting that the increasing inter-connection between them is itself a feature of the early modern period. You¿ll also get a broad sense of how the world as a whole changed between 1500 and 1800.

  • HIH122 Making History

    History is an imprecise art and what historians say and write about the past is not the same as what actually happened in the past. Most people's knowledge about the past doesn't come from professional historians at all but rather from 'public history'. Public history is the collective understandings of the past that exist outside academic discipline of history. It is derived from a diverse range of sources including oral traditions, legends, literature, art, films and television. This module will introduce you to the study and presentation of the past. It will consider how the content, aims and methods of academic and public history compare and contrast and you will engage in your own small research project to investigate this. The module will also teach you about the fundamentals of studying and writing history at university. You will learn about essay writing, group work and critical analysis and employ these skills to understand and assess history today, both as an academic activity and as public knowledge.

  • HIH2001 Ancient and Historic Places (Study-Trip/Field project: History)

    Medieval Poland, Prussia and the Crusading Order of the Teutonic Knights Students will visit a variety of medieval and more recent sites of historical significance over the course of a roughly week-long journey around northern Poland. Sites will include the medieval city of Toru¿, the home of Nicolaus Copernicus, and Malbork Castle, seat of the Grandmaster of the Teutonic order. A series of lectures will precede the trip itself, during the Easter break. During the trip, students will be expected to undertake collaborative interpretive work on site. Refer to departmental literature for details. This module allows students to visit a particular place or region and to investigate historical problems in their original topographical context.

  • HIH237 The Practice of History

    The purpose of the module is to encourage you to think more deeply about how historians work and, in particular, about how we as historians can locate and use primary historical sources effectively as a means of interpreting and understanding the past. During the module we will learn about the survival of historical evidence, how it is organised and made accessible to historians to undertake their research, and how to effectively locate and interpret it in your studies. We will consider how the process of doing historical research changes over time, in particular with the impact of recent developments like digitization. At the core of the module will be the work you undertake with others in your seminar group using a range of primary sources which your seminar tutor will introduce to you. As part of the module assessment you will also undertake your own primary source based research project using items from these collections. The module is designed strengthen your analytical skills and to help prepare you for the more extensive uses of primary evidence which you will encounter in final year special subjects and dissertation.

  • HIH240 Europe 1500-1650: Renaissance, Reformation and Religious War

    This course examines the turbulent period in the history of Europe (including Britain), which encompassed the spread of Renaissance artistic and literary values beyond the Italian peninsula, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and conflicts such as the French Wars of Religion, the Dutch Revolt, and the Thirty Years¿ War. The module will explore not only the political significance of these events, and their effects on the ruling classes, but also their implications for wider European society and culture. Particular attention will be paid to using the knowledge acquired to understand written and visual sources produced in the period.

  • HIH3231 Science, Magic, and Medicine in Early Modern Europe (i)

    Historians of science and medicine have long used the term the `Scientific Revolution¿ to express the idea that knowledge of the natural world and the human body changed in important ways during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This module forms the first part of a two-part Special Subject examining the transformation of scientific, magical, and medical ideas and practices in this period, and assessing whether the concept of the `Scientific Revolution¿ is helpful in understanding them.

  • HIH3232 Science , Magic and Medicine in Early Modern Europe (ii)

    Historians of science and medicine have long used the term the `Scientific Revolution¿ to express the idea that knowledge of the natural world and the human body changed in important ways during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This module forms the second part of a two-part Special Subject examining the transformation of scientific, magical, and medical ideas and practices in this period, and assessing whether the concept of the `Scientific Revolution¿ is helpful in understanding them.

  • HIH3300 History Dissertation

    The History dissertation is a free-standing, 40-credit module that runs across both semesters of Level Three. Candidates conduct research upon a subject of their choice, devised in consultation with a member of staff teaching for the degrees in History, and concerning a topic that falls within staff research and teaching interests.

  • HIHD00 Heritage Dissertation (Practice-Based)

    This module affords students the opportunity to complete their MA in Heritage by undertaking a practical heritage project. The project, worth 67% of the marks, may be undertaken independently, or via a placement with a heritage project or organisation. It will be accompanied by a reflective commentary worth 33% of the marks.

  • HIHD01 Heritage Dissertation (Written)

    Students produce a dissertation on a heritage topic, chosen and developed in conjunction with their supervisor in line with the standard College MA requirements.

  • HIHM04 Heritage Work Placement

    This module enables students to gain practical experience of working with a heritage organisation or project in a graduate-level role. Placements may involve the acquisition of skills in museum work, community projects, heritage interpretation and policy (but are not restricted to these areas). Group discussion and individual tutorials will support students in preparing an extended essay reflecting on their work experience in the context of literature on heritage and public history.


  • Calculating Value: Using and Collecting the Tools of Early Modern Mathematics (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof David Turner
  • Science and Universities Swansea 1920-2020 (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Christoph Laucht
    Other supervisor: Dr Tomas Irish